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For Ankara and Nato, Sweden's membership is a win-win

Ankara's request for Stockholm to help counter regional terrorist organisations aims to protect the alliance's interests
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson shake hands in front of Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Vilnius, Lithuania, on 10 July 2023 (AFP)

Türkiye has been an indispensable ally to the West since it joined Nato in 1952, playing an essential role in protecting transatlantic and European security. 

After the Cold War ended, Türkiye remained a critical part of Nato missions. When the alliance intervened to end the genocide in Bosnia, the Turkish army committed troops to stabilise the country. Türkiye’s deep cultural and historical links to Bosnia helped make this Nato mission a success. 

In the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks, Türkiye played an important role in the global war on terror. As in Bosnia, Türkiye’s cultural knowledge and perception on the ground were crucial to stabilising the situation in Afghanistan. Türkiye was the first head of the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force, as part of its commitment to reconstruction efforts. 

Türkiye has never shied away from the most difficult Nato operations around the world. In an increasingly unstable world full of myriad threats and new forms of warfare, Türkiye actively participates in confronting these emerging challenges, while supporting Nato’s strategic orientation. Going forward, Türkiye will continue to be a stalwart ally and a critical partner in the alliance’s new initiatives.   

Türkiye has invested heavily in defence, fast approaching the target of two percent of GDP for defence spending. As the second-largest army in Nato, Türkiye believes that the alliance’s expansion is key to lasting peace and stability in the world. It has thus been a staunch supporter of the integration of North Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina into Nato. 

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Just before the recent Vilnius summit, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reiterated Türkiye’s clear support for Ukraine to become a Nato member. 

Türkiye supports Nato’s geographic enlargement not against a specific country, but to make it a comprehensive security organisation that will help achieve stability. We are pleased that our legitimate concerns about Sweden’s policies on counterterrorism have been accepted by our allies.

Threat perceptions

It falls upon Nato, not just Türkiye, to ensure that the enlargement process addresses threat perceptions of member nations. Those who levelled unfair criticisms against Türkiye for raising critical questions about aspiring nations, such as Finland and Sweden, must reckon with the fact that enlargement cannot happen at the expense of our national security. That would be anathema to the whole rationale of Nato.    

Türkiye’s preconditions for Sweden’s membership were in accordance with the principles of Nato. The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has been waging a campaign of terror against Türkiye since 1984, and it is considered to be a terrorist organisation by the US and EU, among others. 

The PKK and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) have carried out numerous attacks against Turkish security forces and civilians. This violence, along with their ethno-nationalist, separatist ideology, is antithetical to Nato’s values and destabilising for the region.

Türkiye will continue to be a strong partner and propel the alliance forward to address common security challenges, in line with our national security requirements

Similarly, the Gulenist terror organisation (Feto) is responsible for orchestrating the failed coup attempt on 15 July 2016, in which more than 253 people were killed and more than 2,200 injured. As Feto continues its criminal activities in the West, the fight against these terror organisations should be a crucial mission for all Nato members. 

Türkiye’s demands of Sweden to counter these terrorist groups were aimed at protecting Nato’s capabilities and interests. Accordingly, Türkiye is pleased to support Sweden’s membership in light of the establishment of a new bilateral security mechanism between Ankara and Stockholm. Türkiye is also proud to be instrumental in the establishment of a special coordinator for counterterrorism - the first in Nato’s history. 

Sweden’s promises to support reinvigorating Türkiye’s EU accession process, along with modernising EU-Türkiye customs arrangements and visa liberalisation, were also welcomed by Türkiye. 

Controlling the geographic land bridge between East and West and the waterways to the Black Sea, it is crucial for Türkiye to be in the western camp. Türkiye’s long and deep commitment to Nato has safeguarded Europe. Its ongoing engagement is vital to the continent’s security. 

The Vilnius summit has shown that Türkiye will continue to be a strong partner and propel the alliance forward to address common security challenges, in line with our national security requirements. It will continue to be a stabilising actor in an unstable world.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Fahrettin Altun is the Turkish Presidency’s director of communication
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